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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Does your imagination take you interesting places?

Mine does...or maybe it's not imagination, just looking with fresh eyes.  I often see tree people (or animals, or Green Men) in the woods or elsewhere...how about you?

My wooden fence has eyes...my textured wall has a very cranky female in it...

Are we programmed to anthropomorphize? And do you record it in your journal, like I do?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Workshop from Pam Johnson Brickell!

HI all!  I've added Pam's workshop to our page on Classes and Workshops in the tab at the top of the page, but I wanted to make sure you didn't miss it!  (And contributors, if you've got a new workshop, do let me know so I can add it!)

Illustrated Nature Journaling: Creating a Sense of Place


Pam Johnson Brickell

February 15 & 16 • 10:00 am – 3:30 pm • BYO Lunch

Coastal Art Supply

812 Port Republic Street • Beaufort, SC • 843-524-2787

Fee: $175

$75 deposit

Min/Max 5/8

Join Pam for classroom instruction in watercolor and pen sketching along with hand-lettering.  Put techniques learned into practice with plein air sketching around Port Royal’s Cypress Wetlands Trail.  Gain observation and eye/hand coordination skills, learn about nature and most of all, discover the joy of capturing the area, you choose to call home, in your heart and journal!  

Pam, a SC Master Naturalist, has an international following of her illustrated journals and is a contributing artist in Cathy Johnson's Artist Journal Workshop book, is a co-author of the book's companion blog, and an invited contributor of Johnson's Sketching in Nature blog.


Weather will dictate plein air sketching times.  Plan A: classroom sessions from 10 – noon daily, then we’ll drive to the town of Port Royal for afternoon sketching along the Cypress Wetlands Trail.  The trail is a half a mile in length and consists of pathways and boardwalks that are easily navigated and can be somewhat sheltered from the wind. 

Do dress accordingly.  Bring your sketchbooks and either a travel watercolor set or watercolor pencils, waterbrush(es), Micron pen, pencil and eraser.

We will eat lunch as we wrap up our classroom session.  Please BYO lunch/drink so we can be efficient with our time.  It will take 20 minutes or so to drive to Port Royal. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making the Best of Things

Recently, I needed to use a walker for a while, and drew it--you may have seen those posts!  Then I graduated back to my collection of canes.  They're so cool and idiosyncratic, I just had to draw them.

These were with my old standby Micron Pigma, done in the little journal Roz Stendahl made with Arches Text Wove paper...fun!

Some are mainstays, like the T-shaped one and the more iconic cane 2nd from left, and some are just too fun, like the one on the right.  Some mean a lot to me, since my husband either gave them to me or MADE them for me.

But right now I'm grateful I don't need to use them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thought you might like to see my show!

It will be up till the 13th, it's been SUCH a wild month that time's just flown by...just NOW got the video uploaded...

Lee reminded me in the comments that I didn't put the name of the gallery in the text, ooops!  It's the Artisan Gallery and Heirloom Photography, in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, a lovely place.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


frustration by vickylw
frustration, a photo by vickylw on Flickr.
I had an appointment with a doctor Tuesday to discuss the results of x-rays and MRI on my hip and back --- only to find out that the MRI department had imaged my hip but not my back, even though both were ordered. So a pointless appointment and once more being stuffed like a sausage in the tube . . .

I was determined not to sketch more waiting rooms, but drew this decoration as I waited out of sheer frustration. His goofy grin helped me calm down and even laugh about the mistake. Good use of an art journal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Playing with the new Strathmore toned paper journal

I have a journal I use almost exclusively for writing, and decided I needed to try the new Strathmore hardbound journal when I ran out of my faves.

It's nice! Smooth surface, a pleasure to write in, tempting mid-tan color, and fun to do some art in, taking advantage of that middleground tone.

This is a Prismacolor dark grey pencil with touches of white...

Whee, more colored pencil and ink!

Pilot Penmanship pen with water-soluble ink, plus white Prismacolor and gouache.

And a female bluebird in gouache.  The paper really buckles VERY little, and it's just plain fun!
It was just a very quick pencil sketch...the gouache brings her to life!
I'd definitely recommend these...I'm having a ball trying out different mediums in addition to my daily journaling!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

a new beginning

a new beginning by vickylw
a new beginning, a photo by vickylw on Flickr.
I've started a new sketchbook, with cleaned up palette and re-filled watercolor pans . . .

This handbound journal contains mostly Fabriano Artistico 140# hot press paper, plus a sample of Canson Dual 140# (cold press on one side, rough on the other). In the binding process, I forgot to add end papers . . . and found that I actually prefer it this way, using the same watercolor paper for end paper as well.

Though I'm no longer limiting myself to 3 primaries + 2 neutrals, I have larger pans of them in this palette. But I dropped Payne's Grey, switching to Monte Amiata Natural Sienna as my second neutral --- mixed grays and blacks are so much more interesting.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More Playing with Primaries

I did this a few years ago with my basic primaries...in this case, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Phthalo Blue, and Quinacridone Red.  I was happy with this little farmscape.

Went for bolder mixes yesterday, in my journal...Quin, Rose, Phthalo Blue, and Hansa Yellow in this set.

You can go very subtle, too, if you wish...this is those same three primaries, but blended into varied blue grays.  (Hero M-86 pen with Polar Brown ink, for the under-drawing.)

So are you still experimenting?  Share on our Artist's Journal Workshop group on Facebook if you like! https://www.facebook.com/groups/artists.journal.workshop/?ref=ts&fref=ts or in our Flickr group!

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Usual Colors...sort of...

This is what I was using last year for my usual palette in my old repurposed Prang box.  I'm moving away from the Cadmiums now, and I don't use Transparent Yellow as much as I did...the sap green is gone, too, but everything else is pretty much standard, when I'm NOT using the limited primaries palette!

My color-challenge continues...

This one was done right after I did all the color tests in my journal...I had an old Shaffer calligraphy pen in my purse and added the color from memory, which often works better for me.  Fresher color!

Down in the Ozarks this past week, I knew I'd have a REAL challenge, with all the fall colors.  This one was done on the spot...
My new walker gave me a place to carry all my art supplies and my camera, as well as a place to sit while I worked, but I found I did need a separate table of some sort.  The arm rests really kind of got in the way if I tried to sit and work in my lap, and my journal tended to slide off my knees onto the ground.  So I'd usually park near a bench...

The same day, as evening came on...I wasn't really happy with the one on the left, the darker colors got muddy on me and the brights were TOO bright.  The sun was going down behind this big hill, so I wanted the shadowy effect, but think I should have kept it cooler and grayer...

Still, it was fun to try to capture the effect of fire in this small sketch that was on one corner of a journal page...

I kept it simple with this one...and liked the effect.
Did I stick completely to my primaries-only plus Burnt Sienna and Payne's Grey palette?  Nope, occasionally I just wanted the colors and textures offered by my original set.  I LOVE granulating colors, and the simple set doesn't offer that.

I also found myself reaching for my original little Altoids kit with the primaries instead of the newer kit...but basically it's the same primaries, a warm yellow, Quin Red, and Phthalo Blue, plus B.S. and P.G. It's light and handy and slips into my purse.

I'm enjoying the challenge, but don't consider myself tied...it's a choice, not a geas!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Self Imposed Ink and Exercise Challenge

I'm trying out yet another Stillman and Birn Journal.... this time the Epsilon Series that has paper suited for pen and ink.

This is my first entry and I've got to say writing on this paper with a Micron pen is dreamy. The greys were created with grey and black Pentel Sign Pens that I hit the tip of with a waterbrush, then added the ink to the page.  The water/ink combo spread like butter.

One thing I really like about using a waterbrush is that it dispenses just enough water to get the job done.  This is very useful when the paper being used is not necessarily meant for washes.

This journal has two purposes. The first being to get me off of my desk chair and moving about. That's a challenge in itself as I get lost in my work and time goes sailing by. The second, and most fun, is to explore ink.

I'm glad the journal has many pages as there are so many inks waiting to be tried :) Which leads me to the back of my journal where I create color test pages......
click to enlarge
I'm keeping this journal in my desk drawer, easily at hand.  I've been sitting too long again... time to catch lunch and take a stroll with my journal and pens :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

The color challenge continues--join me?

I'm continuing to play with a very limited palette...join me? I'm using Hansa Yellow Light, though a Cadmium would so for the yellow, Permanent Rose (or Quinacridone Rose or Quin Red) and Phthalo Blue (or similar would do).  I've added Burnt Sienna and Payne's Grey for convenience colors....Indigo would work, too. 

And look at all the colors possible. I've used the Burnt Sienna and Payne's Grey in the mixes, for variety.  Above, yellows, reds, blues and convenience colors, reds ditto, and blues ditto! (Click on the image for a larger version.)

Even more colors are possible, if you add a bit of one of the other primary colors so you're using a triad in various strengths, as you can see below.  Even a deep neutral that's very close to black.  It all depends on how intense your mixtures are...

Of course the effects can be quite subtle, too...I only used the primaries in my painting of my little cat, Rags, asleep on my computer.

So give it a try, and post what you've done on our Artist's Journal Workshop Flickr group, here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/artists-journal-workshop/!  Mark what you've done as primaries only, or primaries and convenience colors...and let's play!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trying new things, challenging ourselves

A new brand, for me--well relatively, anyway. 
 Some of us do the weekly challenges in the Everyday Matters group; some take Brenda Swenson's 75 sketches in 75 days challenge.  Blog members Liz Steel, Alissa Duke and Laura Frankstone have all given themselves words to grow by.

Liz wrote recently about trying new materials and approaches; Alissa is pushing herself to discover more about travel sketchingLaura  travels to some amazing places to sketch, and has also challenged herself by painting a single subject (trees, faces) or using one color as dominant for a month, in the past--I think we learned almost as much as she did.

Right now, I'm exploring watercolor.  Again.  Still.  Different brands, like the Russian Sonnet watercolors above...I found them on eBay and put some of the little pans into an old metal Talens paint box.  (They're a less expensive version of Yarka St. Petersburg/White Nights watercolors, but so far they've passed all my tests with flying colors.  Literally! )

I've used Winsor & Newton for decades, and over the years I've also tried Daniel Smith, Schmincke, Maimeri Blu, Kremer and others...but people kept raving about the Russian paints, doing such gorgeous work (like Pat Southern-Pearce!) that I just had to explore with them.

I'm doing a long-range fade test on them, which I'll report on later, but so far--yep, these are gorgeous, lift well, and mix beautifully, and I can't detect any fading over the months they've been exposed.

Going simpler...with room for brushes, drawing sticks and lots of mixing area.

And in my ongoing attempt to simplify my life and lighten my load, I've set up one of my vintage Prang boxes with the primaries with two convenience colors--Burnt Sienna and Payne's Gray. (On the left, here, you can see color tests with the Sonnet paints, and on the right my "new" old primary box.

Funny, when I first started painting with watercolors, Prang used to make a box that was just the primaries and black.  I LOVED it.  That's all I'd use, for years...I feel like I've come full circle!

I found out when I made my first little home made Altoids box a few years ago that I didn't need a billion colors--I just stumbled onto this combination, and recently I've been reading many resources that explain why they work!  If you choose Phthalo Blue or similar, cool, clean Quinacridone Red or Rose (or Permanent Rose) as your red, and a good clear yellow, you can mix about anything--as you can see above.  I started out my painting career with a warm red and a cool one, a warm blue and a cool one...but if I add a touch of rose to my Phthalo, I get something very like Ultramarine Blue.  A little yellow in that nice clean rose gives me a good orange.  Nifty!

Sure it takes a moment more to mix (hence my two convenience colors!)...but I'm balancing weight and simplicy against convenience and liking how it's coming out!

You can tell how light THIS kit would be.  I took the lid off a second box to double my mixing area--it friction-fits on the bottom of the box.
Here are some of my explorations...and how I got where I am now.  
So my challenge to myself is to see what I can do with just those three true primaries (or as close as we can get, with pigments) and my two convenience colors.  Stay tuned!

Here's today's play...sorry the scan's a bit gray, the art definitely isn't!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sketchbook vs Journal

A quick update... I am still markering and using a moleskine cahier... Have just started my second one.

121016 Sketchbook vs Journal Book 1

Today I just had a light bulb moment (like all light bulb moment they seem very obvious afterwards...)

As much as I loved working through the first moleskine- drawing only on one side of the page – I never fully bonded with the book. (getting severe water damage didn’t help much either!)
It is because I wasn’t working across the spread that it feels more like a sketchbook (each page a separate image that don’t connect) rather than a journal (a record of my life) Even though I did do a few journal type pages the flow between the pages wasn’t there. What is interesting is that a single page of this sketchbook at A4 size is the same size as what I am used to with my normal A5 sketchbook working across the spread. It is not the size but this ‘book-like quality’ to turning pages that obviously is so important to me.

121016 Sketchbook vs Journal Book 2

The second moleskine cahier, that I using now, I am going to work every second spread (little I did with the smaller sketchbook in my last post) and I am immediately excited by the feel. Excited that I am now back to journal style but even more excited but the possibilities of working larger size. So even when I write a heap of text like I regularly do, I can still tie it together with an image on the next page. Also combining various images on a page (even over a few days...yet to do this) makes it feel more like a travel journal (ah! That is always a nice feeling isn’t it?) And just in case you are wondering, I am ALWAYS thinking about my next trip (whenever and wherever it might be and thinking about what I will do next time- very much like Alissa’s project recently)

This concept follows on from a discussion recently on facebook when someone asked why we don’t sketch on single pages... I replied
it is very important for me to work in a sketchbook since my sketching is all about the process of recording a moment and telling the story of my life. Individual sheets of paper is too disjointed for me- sure I could bind them later but I like seeing the narrative evolve through a book. I find that there is a lot more pressure to produce a perfect 'image' when all I really want to do is have fun and record the moment.

but since then I have realised that just being in a sketchbook isn’t enough – there has to be a narrative!
Current sketchbook and perhaps the next one

So, I think that by next adventure will be to try a large moleskine watercolour book (A4 landscape) I got one in the mail today. ... a little worried about whether it will fit on small cafe tables but excited by new adventures to come.
(the other sketchbook is the one I am currently using- my moleskine cahier with a cover by Paul Wang from Singapore) Ok... That's even rambling from me for today!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ups and Downs

The gift of a soft, rainy day, and the gift of a new journal...life IS good.

But not without its challenges...

One of the most important things about my journal is that it's a place to record the days--which was part of what the root word meant--the daily-ness of it.  We remember more fully, we deal with adversity, we celebrate, we find a sense of humor when we need it.  We play.  We express gratitude.  We explore.

I can't imagine doing without this...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taking advantage of unexpected opportunities

And what fun that is!  It's starting to get cold at night and we'd had several hard frosts.  Our outside "water feature" is just a big plastic planter filled with water and a fountain...and one lone goldfish, the last survivor of the 15 or so we put in in the first place.  (We named him Norman Bates...)

After one particularly nippy night, I noticed Norman was sort of floating diagonally near the bottom of the pool, and whereas I know fish hibernate over the winter and have a kind of natural antifreeze, I wasn't sure our planter wouldn't freeze solid.  He's hardy, but not THAT hardy.

So be bought an aquarium and a pump and moved him indoors...

The unexpected by-product was that I can SEE him now --much bigger than I thought--and he's fun to draw.  Lots of quick ink and watercolor sketches the first day...

More careful studies with pencil and watercolor on the second...he's fascinating!  (My cats think so too...but we have the lid taped down, so he's safe.)

This required reorganizing the whole living room, moving things around to accommodate a sturdy flat surface for the aquarium, but you know what?  It was worth it!  A whole new world to sketch...

It's great for a summer home, but going to be pretty chilly, SOON.

Travel sketchbook thoughts : Alissa Duke

Thoughts on creating myTravel Sketchbook

I have had these thoughts going through my head for a while and I wanted to put them in an organised version on paper. The catalyst has been the Sketchbook Project that I am working on this year (more about that later) and wanting to share my learning experience anyone else who is interested.

Looking back, I always enjoyed reading books that were illustrated travel journals and sketchbooks. I enjoyed them for their illustrations as well as reading about other people’s travels, They are always more interesting if they are about a city or country I want to or have visited, especially the United Kingdom ( I am in Australia) .

This interest began many years ago with books such as David Gentleman’s Britain (and many others in the series) and Fabrice Moireau sketchbooks, to more recently Taking a Line for a Walk by Christopher Lambert, An Eye on the Hebrides by Mairi Hedderwick and Lorette E Roberts Singapore. Secrets of the Lion City.  (and many many more books) . (I am looking forward to Danny Gregory’s upcoming book “An Illustrated Journey”).This is all pre-internet/self publishing era.  But these are usually edited, formatted, composed, cleaned up, lovely small font with commentary, they are quite lengthy and published after the journeyNow I have many online favourites, .
I realised that I wanted to create my own sketchbooks in my drawing style when I travel.. They would be a narrative, day to day, capturing my travels, whether local, interstate or overseas.. As the sketchbooks would be created as I travel, I won’t have the luxury of all of the above editing factors. But I do have the luxury of being able to have an approach in my mind, a concept of how to approach a page composition and what works for me. That is the stage I am at now.

For the past few years I have been drawing everyday in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, using watercolour pencils and/or ink. I draw at home, on buses, in queues, sitting on stairs, at cafes,. So I am comfortable with how and when where to draw.

I also know how I draw at the moment.  I am at ease drawing objects, food, paper. I am not so good at buildings and vistas. But architecture is an important feature of a city or town and so I want to include it , the trees, roads, sky. I have been considering how it is best for me to capture a scene with these in it. And people – people are the life of the city, so I must include them too.

Sketchbook travel Journals

I currently draw my pre trip preparation – drawing my packed bag, or things in preparation – my sketch-kit,  passport, currency. I also always draw at the airport, and on the airplane.( a good way to pass the time)  So I am comfortable with the first few pages of my travel sketchbook.

o o   My current creative investigation is into I

I am entering the 2013 Sketchbook Project and have chosen the theme : Travelogue.Paris 2007.  I am revisiting my 2007 holiday to Paris, as if I was there, drawing as much then as I do now ! ..My sketchbook is based on my diaries, photographs I took and where I thought I would have drawn at the time, as well as souvenirs I bought. Although this is created in retrospect, all the time I thought how would approach future travel sketchbooks. I still have a few pages to complete, as it is not due to be sent away until January 2013.

The journal can be viewed here Travelogue Paris 2007

My Travel Sketchbook :my thoughts

Over the 18 double pages of the Sketchbook Project I have experimented with composition, lettering, maps., It is different paper and size of my usual sketchbook and I have had to squeeze five days into a limited amount of pages. have come to the following conclusions
  •  it will be a combination of on the quick on the spot sketching and more detailed drawings
  • leave first page or two of each day blank – at end of day I could draw maps, streets walked that day, rail/metro routes caught.

  • draw objects such as tickets, souvenirs, food, headings also at the end of the day in my hotel room. There is time and space to draw. If there is a good view from the room, I can draw it everyday

  • MAPS. If I colour the roads or areas between the road on a map I can match them with other colours I have used on the page, bringing it all together. Below are examples of maps and date experiments



  • leave lots of white space – I can always fill it in later if it looks too sparse.

  • write commentary about how I feel, think, react to things, smells, places but not too much. I will probably keep a separate diary. I have read a very good book by Dave Fox called “Globejotting : how to write extraordinary travel journals”. I am not a writer, but it had some great hints.

  • Re: buildings and vistas
  • just try an draw a section
  • leave the top, bottom or sides unfinished.- lines drifting off
  • only colour some parts
  • don’t try and fill the page - only use part of the page
  • it is like a little vignette., with a little character and insight, but not too much
  • don’t try and get caught up in the detail and try and leave this to a " close up " drawing later if I get the chance

Reading over what I have written it seems a little pedantic in places but it has been a very valuable creative experiment.

Of course this is all very well in writing,


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